Former Intel chief architect provides an insider's look into the design of the Pentium chips

December 08, 2005

One of the most recognizable brand names in the world, Intel Corporation has become synonymous with the computer age. From its introduction of the first microprocessor more than 30 years ago to its meteoritic rise in the 1990s, the world's largest chip maker has been both publicly applauded for its technological innovation and charged with allegations of unfair competition practices, intellectual theft, and faulty products. However, even the staunchest critic could not contest the far-reaching impact of the Pentium chip. In his new book "The Pentium Chronicles: the People, Passion, and Politics Behind Intel's Landmark Chips" (Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press; December 2005; $24.95; Paper; 0-471-73617-1), Robert P. Colwell, the chief architect responsible for the Pentium CPU architecture, provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the design and production of the most successful microprocessor in history, Intel's Pentium 6.

Unveiling the saga of a project that exploded from a few architects to hundreds of engineers, Colwell humorously recounts the rationale, key decisions, personal triumphs, and setbacks that characterized the P6 project. From its architectural planning in a storage room jimmied open with a credit card to a marketing presentation using shopping carts, the author relates events from the project's early beginnings through its production and launch.

Not just a discussion of project structure and management, concept development, and cooperation and interference with other company projects, "The Pentium Chronicles" also examines the Intel culture, often recounting funny stories of corporate policies gone wrong. Colwell addresses the public controversies over Intel's Pentium III internal ID tag, the Pentium's floating point divider bug, and claims of intellectual property theft from Digital Equipment Corporation and Cornell University.

The creation of a ground-breaking product like the P6 chip requires the confluence of many factors -- brilliant minds, exceptional dedication, and managers that inspire and nurture the vision while ensuring that the project stays on track. Robert P. Colwell's narrative "The Pentium Chronicles: the People, Passion, and Politics Behind Intel's Landmark Chips" offers a first-hand perspective into what it took to create and develop a product that forever changed the way we live and work.
About the Author:

Robert P. Colwell, Ph.D., is currently an Independent Consultant. Dr. Colwell served as Chief IA32 Microprocessor Architect at Intel Corporation from 1992-2000. Managing the IA32 Arch group in Intel's Hillsboro, Oregon facility, he initiated and led Intel's Pentium 4 CPU core development and co-led the team that conceived Intel's P6 microarchitecture, the core of the company's Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron, Xeon, and Centrino product families. Previously, Colwell was a CPU architect at Multiflow Computer, a hardware design engineer at workstation vendor Perq Systems, and a member of technical staff at Bell Labs.

He was named an Intel Fellow in 1996 and the Eckert-Mauchly award winner for 2005. He has published many technical papers and journal articles, is inventor or co-inventor on 40+ patents, and has participated in numerous panel sessions and invited talks. He is the Perspectives Editor for "IEEE Computer Magazine," and writes the "At Random" column.

About the Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press:

Since October 2002, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and the IEEE Computer Society Press have jointly developed and published books in the fields of computer and software engineering under the Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press imprint. To support computer professionals in the dissemination and discussion of new computing technologies, emerging issues, and industry trends, the Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Press currently produces more than 60 books in the areas of software and hardware development, computing and networking, computer science, software engineering, and information technology.


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